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03.16.21 | Community

Our Guide to Spring Cleaning

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to talk about that dreaded annual task: spring cleaning. Luckily, spring cleaning doesn’t have to be something you dread. With the right planning and strategy — and the right people to help lend a hand and brighten the task — spring cleaning can be a breeze. To get you started on the right path, we present: Sage Collective’s guide to spring cleaning.

Partner Up and Plan

Spring cleaning is a much easier — and much more fun — task when you have someone else to do it with you. Whether it’s a neighbor, friend or family member, invite someone over to take on the job with you. Start off by boiling a fresh kettle of tea and putting on a favorite record to set the mood. Together, work to create a checklist of everything that has to be done and to dole out responsibilities accordingly. That way, you can tackle the challenge together, and maybe even sing along as you go.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Supplies

First and foremost, you should always consider your safety when going about cleaning the house. That’s why choosing the right cleaning supplies is essential to getting the job done right, and done without incident. Things like long-handled brooms and stand-up dust pans ensure that you won’t have to constantly bend down when sweeping. Meanwhile, when it comes to those hard-to-reach places, an extendable duster will help make getting to every nook and cranny much easier!

Not Just Cleaning — But Decluttering

In addition to getting your home spotless, sparkling and shining, spring cleaning is the perfect time to tackle decluttering. From cleaning out the medicine cabinet to remove clutter and the safety hazards posed by expired medications, to cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator of any expired or unused food objects, to tackling those piled up stacks of bills, you’ll thank yourself later! These things stack up throughout the year, but by tackling declutter each spring, you can ensure a home where what you want and need most is easy to store and find later. 

Thinking About Safety

Spring cleaning is also a great time to check-in on the safety initiatives you have in place in your home. Plan to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure their batteries are still good and everything is in working order. And did you know fire extinguishers have an expiration date? Be sure to add checking those to the list! Because checking these things often requires climbing a ladder, consider enlisting a younger neighbor, caregiver or loved one to traverse the ladder for you in order to avoid fall risks. 

Other safety considerations to add to your spring cleaning checklist: check in on, or put together, a simple emergency kit. This can include first-aid kits, flashlights with spare batteries, and an easily-accessible list of numbers to call in case of an emergency. 

With these tips in mind, and with the right helping hands, spring cleaning might even become something you look forward to each year! 

A clear plastic spray bottle filled with yellow fluid. Lemons sit on the countertop next to the bottle
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10.08.20 | Health & Wellness

Overcoming Challenges Posed by COVID-19

COVID-19 poses many challenges particularly to vulnerable populations such as older adults but with every challenge is an opportunity to overcome it. We spoke with Dr. John K. Holton, PhD., to discuss lessons learned and positive outcomes during the pandemic. Holton is Director of Strategic Initiatives for Social Policy and Research at the Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and board member at Sage Collective. 

Finding New Ways to Connect

With older adults at higher risk of being severely affected by COVID-19, many are taking CDC safety guidelines more seriously than the average American, which can lead to increased social isolation and loneliness. “While no one is happy to see the quality of life for older adults affected,” explains Holton, “increased awareness of the risk of social isolation has created a positive impact: people are now more concerned about the wellbeing of older adults than ever before.”

The increased attention and care for older adults in our communities has led to inventive, highly organized solutions. “We’ve seen responses raised, like setting up phone banks or block-by-block check-ins on homes led by local faith institutions,” says Holton. “These solutions are being used to blanket communities with networks that were always there informally, but that have now taken on a more formal responsibility of influence.”

Holton goes on to say: “During the pandemic, the slogan we’re all in this together has arisen. But what should go hand-in-hand with that slogan is the additional call to action: and here’s how you can be helpful. That kind of thinking is what takes the spirit from passive connection to fruitful action, making the power of the collective come alive.”

Graphic reads During the pandemic, the slogan We're all in this together has arisen, but what should go hand in hand with that slogan is the additional call to action: and here's how you can be helpful

Making Solutions Accessible

Every challenge (and subsequent solution) is a learning experience. Holton echoes this sentiment: “There are lessons we’re learning from experiencing this pandemic, and best practices we’re evolving for the years to come, because while this is the first pandemic in over a hundred years, it certainly won’t be the last, and we need to be prepared. We’re gaining invaluable understanding and insight as we go, as this pandemic continues to reshape our economy and our social practices.” 

But as we invent new solutions, they can’t be one size fits all. Different circumstances call for different approaches, and Holton stresses the importance of accessibility and consideration for more vulnerable populations (such as older adults). “In other words, as we develop best practices writ large, are we making sure to adapt them to apply to our most vulnerable populations?” challenges Holton.

Learning Lessons, New and Old

One example Holton uses is the 1995 Chicago heat wave. Over a period of five days, 739 heat-related deaths occurred in the city, with the majority of victims being elderly residents. Many could not afford air conditioning or were unable to open windows in their homes, and as a community we failed to check in on them and ensure their needs were being met. “That was a wake-up call for everybody,” reflects Holton, “including city government. We knew then we had to do better. Failing to meet that challenge led to posthumous solutions like cooling stations and phone banks organized by the Illinois Department of Human Services [IDHS]. In these periods of extended crisis, we learn to create solutions that fit the needs of our most vulnerable populations, because we have to, to do better as a public body.”

Another example comes from widespread criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Many felt FEMA did an inadequate job of encouraging evacuation in target areas before the hurricane hit. “What we learned from FEMA,” explains Holton, “is that the protocols it had in place to help people understand the urgency of the situation only worked for a certain class of folks — in other words, folks who had transportation and were able to organize belongings and jump in their cars. Meanwhile, folks who weren’t in that position needed other types of assistance to help them evacuate. Borrowing from that example, we learned then and will learn now what does and doesn’t work with certain pockets of our population.” 

We’re facing parallel challenges today: meeting the needs of nursing homes and skilled care facilities during the pandemic. Early on, many were hit hard and were scary places to be for vulnerable populations. But as time goes on and we learn more, communities are taking more civic responsibility for the health and safety of each and every person, because as Holton says, we’re all in this together, and we need to do what we can to help. And when we do work together for a better future, wonderful things arise from it. 

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